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West Region: No. 1 Gonzaga Falls


Even with a number one by its name this year, Gonzaga was still a small team with a big dream.

Many bettors (including this one) didn’t consider the Zags to be a true number one seed because of their cushy schedule, but in the NCAA Tournament, there are no easy games and no easy wins.

Gonzaga found that out on Thursday as it survived a grind-it-out slugfest with 16-seed Southern. And then it discovered it again in its loss to Wichita State on Saturday.

The Shockers of WSU lived up to their name, knocking off the over-hyped Zags by a score of 76-70 to advance to the Sweet 16. Wichita State had to shoot lights out to do it, draining 50 percent of its three-point field goals, but the Shockers busted a lot of brackets regardless of how they earned the win.

So what does this mean for the wild West region of the tournament bracket?

With dark horse pick New Mexico already out and with Kansas State and Wisconsin both eliminated, it looks like Ohio State is the clear-cut favorite to emerge from the West. However, as we’ve seen so far, a sure thing simply doesn’t exist.

The Buckeyes will have their hands full today with a pesky and very athletic Iowa State team, who easily handled Notre Dame in the round of 64. Iowa State displayed a soft outside shooting touch and a domineering inside presence, a combination that could prove lethal to any team if administered in heavy doses.

Then there’s two-seed Ohio State, who has appeared more than capable of making a Final Four run during its nine-game win streak, which includes a Big Ten title. Odds makers are giving the Buckeyes a deserved seven-point edge, but can they cover it today?

It’s hard to go against Ohio State considering their wealth of experience and ability to perform in the clutch, but based on what we saw from the Cyclones earlier in the week, this game should be one of the most highly contested of the day. Look for Iowa State to keep things close and cover +7, even in the loss.

If Ohio State is upset, the door would be wide open for pretty much any other remaining team in the West to claim the region and that includes 13-seed La Salle and 12-seed Ole Miss, two teams that will meet in a third-round bout today.

Like Ohio State, Ole Miss has played extremely well down the stretch and rode their momentum on to a conference championship. The Rebels showed they can upend solid teams with their win over Wisconsin, but La Salle brings in a whole new slew of challenges for the Rebels to overcome.

In their two tournament wins so far, the Explorers have shown they love to run the floor and can make big plays, but also that they don’t fear any team. They pulled out a last second win against heavily favored Kansas State and they did it even after blowing a large lead. This is a team that doesn’t lose focus or their composure.

However, you could say the same about the Rebels. They’ve already won several close games during their six-game winning streak. So, can they cover the five-point spread?

Like the Ohio State-Iowa State game, this battle will likely come down to the wire. Neither of these teams is accustom to blowing out opponents, or getting blown out themselves. Look for this one to be tight all game long and take La Salle to cover +5, but give Ole Miss an edge on the moneyline for the win.

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